From the dawn of the Big 12 conference, its football teams have been major players on the national stage and have played some of the most memorable games in college football history. I thought it would be fun to take a look back and rank the greatest games in conference history. Instead of listing them all in one article, I decided to do a series of articles and break it up into five-year increments starting with the 1990s. From 1996 to 1999, Big 12 programs Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, and Oklahoma State each finished in the top 25 at least one season, giving the fans some colossal match-ups along the way.
This was an interesting and time-consuming exercise. My list was much longer when I started and the process of elimination was difficult. I ended up prioritizing games of national significance between ranked teams versus games that didn’t have as many eyes on them. Hope you enjoy this look back at some of the best Big 12 games of the 1990s.
Texas A&M 36 Kansas State 33, December 5, 1998
Kansas State entered the 1998 Big 12 championship game undefeated and the number two ranked team in the country. A victory over number 10 Texas A&M would give them a strong argument to be one of the teams selected to play in the national championship game. K-State started strong, held a 27-12 4th quarter lead, and felt they were well on their way to victory. The Aggies had other plans. A&M scored a touchdown with a little over nine minutes left in the game to cut the deficit to 27-19 and were driving again late in the 4th quarter still down eight points, but K-State turned them over on downs with 3:26 left in the game, prompting announcer Brent Musberger to comment about the Wildcats “they’re 3:26 away from playing for the championship!”
On the ensuing possession, K-State’s Michael Bishop ran for four yards on first down, then threw a baffling deep incompletion on second down. On 3rd down, he ran a quarterback draw to gain enough yardage for the first down to put the game away, only to get hit and fumble at the end of the play. Texas A&M recovered and four plays and 50 yards later, they scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. The drama wasn’t yet over in regulation, as Michael Bishop completed a Hail Mary pass as time expired two yards short of the goal line. The game went to overtime.
The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime. K-State got the ball first in the second overtime and Texas A&M held the Wildcats to a field goal. A&M scored the winning touchdown on 3rd and 17 from 32 yards out when Branndon Stewart hit Sirr Parker on a long pass play. It was a shocking upset that is still talked about to this day. You can view the “no-huddle” broadcast of this game on YouTube here:
Nebraska 45 Missouri 38, November 8, 1997 (Flea Kicker Game)
Nebraska traveled to Faurot Field in Columbia as the top-ranked team in college football. In what is now known as the “flea kicker” game, Nebraska scored a controversial touchdown on the last play of regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
Missouri scored a touchdown to pull ahead of Nebraska 38-31 with 4:38 left in the game. After the Missouri touchdown the teams exchanged punts and Nebraska got the ball back with 1:02 left in the game. On 3rd and 10 from the Missouri 12 yard line, Frost threw the ball into the end zone to Shevin Wiggins, who lost control of the ball and fell to the turf. As he was falling, he kicked the ball into the air and it was caught by Nebraska’s Matt Davidson for the game-tying touchdown. Nebraska scored a touchdown on the first possession of overtime and then held Missouri on downs to win the game.
There was controversy after this game about whether the kick was legal or not. In watching the video, Missouri fans thought the pass was incomplete and stormed the field to tear down the goalposts before realizing the referees called it a touchdown. You can view the infamous play here:
Texas A&M 28 Nebraska 21, October 10, 1998
Number two Nebraska faced number 18 Texas A&M in this classic that is ranked as one of the best games in the history of Kyle Field. Nebraska entered the game on a 19 game winning streak and a 40 game regular-season conference win streak. Texas A&M built a 28-7 lead in the 4th quarter but Nebraska scored two straight touchdowns to pull within seven. They got the ball back on their own 20-yard line with two minutes remaining and drove to the 40-yard line before A&M sealed the game with an interception. You can view the end of the game on YouTube here:
1998 Texas 20 Nebraska 16, October 31, 1998
In a game that was close throughout, Major Applewhite threw a touchdown pass with 2:47 left in the game to give Texas the victory, breaking number seven Nebraska’s 47 game winning streak at Memorial Stadium. Ricky Williams had 157 yards rushing and Applewhite had 269 yards passing and two touchdowns. You can view the game on YouTube here:
Kansas State 40 Nebraska 30, November 14, 1998
Although K-State came into this game ranked second in the country and the favorite, they hadn’t beaten number 11 ranked and defending national champion Nebraska since 1968. The game was close throughout and K-State held a 34-30 lead with about two and a half minutes left in the game. Nebraska had the ball and was driving. On 4th down, K-State’s Travis Ochs sacked Eric Crouch with a non-call facemask. K-State was able to run four plays to run some clock and punt, giving Nebraska a little bit of time to try and score at the very end of the game. A fumble recovery for a touchdown by K-State resulted in the 40-30 final margin. You can view the “no-huddle” broadcast of this game here:
Honorable Mention, in no particular order:
Kansas State 42 Oklahoma 35, October 25, 1996
The Oklahoma football program mostly struggled in the late 1990s, but they had their moments. Oklahoma was down to the 17th ranked Wildcats 42-14 in the 4th quarter but scored three straight touchdowns to pull within seven points and had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to tie it, but the Wildcats got an interception from Chris Canty to seal the victory for K-State.
Oklahoma 30 Texas 27, October 12, 1996
In the first Red River Shootout in which both teams were members of the Big 12, Texas held a 24-13 lead early in the 4th quarter only to see Oklahoma come back and tie the game and win it in overtime.
Nebraska 33 Colorado 30, November 26, 1999
Nebraska had a 27-3 lead going into the 4th quarter. Colorado scored 24 unanswered points, getting the game-tying touchdown with 2:59 left after a successful onside kick recovery. Both teams had one more possession in regulation with Colorado missing a 34-yard field goal attempt as time expired, which sent the game to overtime. Colorado kicked a field goal on the first possession of overtime and Nebraska answered with an Eric Crouch touchdown run to win it.
Kansas State 21 Texas Tech 14, August 31, 1996
In the inaugural game of the Big 12 conference, Kansas State led 21-3 early in the 4th quarter. Texas Tech rallied to cut the lead to seven and had the ball deep in K-State territory with under a minute left in the game. It took a pass break up on 4th down near the goal line for K-State to pull out the victory.
Texas 24 Nebraska 20, October 23, 1999
Nebraska came into this game undefeated and ranked number three in the country. They led 13-3 at halftime, but Texas scored two touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to take a 17-13 lead. A nine-yard touchdown run by Eric Crouch put Nebraska up 20-17, but a touchdown pass from Major Applewhite to Mike Jones with 5:51 left was enough for Texas to get the 24-20 victory. It was Nebraska’s only loss of the 1999 season.
*If you like what you’ve read from Joe Mathieu, find more on his personal K-State site: https://www.kstatejoe.com/*